Flying With Kids

DailyMail2In the last post, Amy P pointed us to a post from a woman complaining about being subjected to other people's children on airplanes. The woman writes, "Your kid's rights stop where my discomfort begins."

MH's retort wins. Really,
I'm willing to stop my little one from kicking the seats, prevent
objects from being tossed, and do my best to keep him from screaming
(who doesn't want to scream on an airplane from time to time). Beyond
that, I'm happy to invite anyone complaining to shove the in-flight
magazine up their ass.

20 thoughts on “Flying With Kids

  1. It shouldn’t be that hard to travel with kids. A new book, a few snacks and some conversation will keep most kids entertained for a few hours. Parents have my total sympathy if there are delays but I don’t appreciate parents who fail to provide any amusements for their kids. You can’t expect a child to just sit still quietly for hours. Distraction is key!

  2. “A new book, a few snacks and some conversation will keep most kids entertained for a few hours.”
    That’s true starting late 2 (maybe), but mostly true from 3-years-old on. Earlier, I wouldn’t count on it. Toddlerhood is the golden age of seat kicking and aisle running. The little critters have to be moving all the time and a lot of them don’t have the attention span to watch videos at length. There are huge changes in the preschool years. Even fairly young children (4 and 5, maybe even 3) start wanting to pack themselves stuff for a plane trip. My kids have been very good air travelers from about 3 on, but I don’t flatter myself that it’s because I’m such a brilliant parent. I remember flying a year or so ago when my son was three. He was so good! Meanwhile, a nearby couple with a 2-year-old was in constant agony. It wasn’t a parenting issue, it was 100% an age issue.

  3. The so-called Advice Goddess has to be one the worst tempered olde hags around. Most of her rants are so mean-spirited that you have drink a double scotch to get the bad taste out.

  4. The girl just turned four and has been a great traveller AND I can’t claim much credit beyond the entertain/distraction. Lucky with her personality. That being said, poop on those who complain about kids on planes who are having meltdowns. Who knows how long they have been travelling?
    If you travel outside of a private jet, you will encounter families – deal with it.
    I have had MUCH more pain-in-the-assness from adult travellers who smell/snore/hog the arm rest.

  5. On my last flight (a long intercontinental one), the person next to me filed her nails, removed her nail polish, and applied 3+ coats of polish.
    I just endured it. But, in my book, way more annoying than a kid. The yappy dog on the previous flight was pretty bad, too.
    I do think that it’s important to keep kids from interfering with the physical space of others — i.e. no kicking the back seat. It’s tough, sometimes, ’cause their legs are right there. Inside voices are also important. My kids are also talkers, incessant ones, and I know that can be annoying, but, it’s something for others to tolerate.
    The meltdowns, well, there’s not usually much you can do about them. My daughter woke up screaming on a night flight from Hawaii (actually, it wasn’t supposed to be a night flight, but after a 5+ hour delay, it turned into one). It must have been tremendously annoying to everyone (mind you, not more upsetting than it was to me, but on the other hand, they didn’t get the delightful benefit of their child’s presence in return).

  6. When I was in high school, my girl scout troop went to Mexico. (We sold a crap load of cookies and didn’t waste time with the stupid badges.) The guy next to me threw a blanket over his lap and his girl friend curled under it. The asshole got a blow job right next to a 14 year old in a girl scout uniform. And people complain about crying babies!

  7. In the original letter, it appears the flight was delayed on the runway, which is a very bad situation for a kid who doesn’t like being confined–at least when the plane is going something interesting is happening.
    But really, what’s the likelihood that a parent of a melting-down kid on a plane didn’t try snacks or bring any games or books? Does any parent go anywhere without that stuff these days? There was no evidence either way, but the commenters on that thread went straight to BAD PARENT. And recommended smacking the kid! I’m sure that would have gone over well. Imagine the authorities waiting at the gate to arrest the parents for battering.
    And some kids are just howlers. My older daughter flew Reno to Portland with me at 4 months and spent the entire 72 minutes upadie down on my lap howling into my leg. Wouldn’t take a bottle, wouldn’t respond to patting or jiggling, nothing. Awful. I think I was more pitied than anything though.
    The idea that you can diagnose rotten parenting from ONE incident based on the kid’s, not the parent’s, behavior, is amazingly presumptuous.

  8. Also, it occurs to me it’s just as valid to tell delicate flowers who can’t handle a screaming child occasionally to buy their own plane (or drive) as it is to tell parents of small children that they should not use public conveyances until their children reach the age of reason.

  9. If you guys liked the thread at Amy Alkon’s site, there are 240+ comments over at the LA Times.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-alkon24-2009nov24,0,2649186.story
    I suspect that the non-parents and the retired parents (who in my experience are often the victims of almost total amnesia) are forgetting a simple fact: if a child is screaming unhappily, that might mean that there is something he wants that he isn’t getting, which suggests that the parent is doing something, all appearances to the contrary. In a confined situation such as an airplane, a parent is often faced with the choice of either allowing anti-social behavior or dealing with sustained wailing. There really isn’t a right answer when, 3 hours into your five-hour flight, your bag of tricks runs out.

  10. I’m usually incredibly sympathetic to people traveling with kids; they have little choice and sometimes the kids are going to be doing things that people find annoying. That’s just life out in the world. As long as the parents seem to be trying to teach (older) kids what is appropriate behavior (whether or not the kids are able to apply it) and are attempting to soothe or entertain them, I don’t think you can have any real complaint.
    However, there is a genre of parent who feels that whatever their child wants, thinks or feels should take priority for and over everyone else. The child must not be thwarted. Ever. The last flight I took, the parents in the seats behind me had brought to amuse their 3 1/2-year-old one of those big thick-skinned balloons on a rubber wristband–not sure what they’re called. You hold the band in your fist and punch at the balloon, which makes a loud sound (and bangs the seat in front of you or hits you in the head, if you’re on a plane). Why would somebody do that? Why? I kept looking around for the cameras, thinking it must be some sort of social experiment or reality show. But no. It’s just that that’s what the kid wanted and he should have it. From the way the couple (early 40s, I’m guessing Brooklynites) spoke to the child and loudly repeated everything he said for the benefit of everyone who might not have heard him the first time, they are in the camp that believes they’ve produced the most perfect specimen, and we should all accommodate his every desire. Admit it, parents, you know some of this type too.
    I wasn’t annoyed with the child—it wasn’t his fault—but I was ready to throttle his parents. I actually felt sorry for the kid, because his parents may very well turn him into an unlikeable person.

  11. “I wasn’t annoyed with the child—it wasn’t his fault—but I was ready to throttle his parents. I actually felt sorry for the kid, because his parents may very well turn him into an unlikeable person.”
    It sounds like the parents were actually working really hard on him, too, and probably thought they were doing a fantastic job. Pretty sad.
    I haven’t actually seen this sort of thing in the wild. I didn’t ever have the opportunity to get acquainted with the parents of the children from preschool that I used to mentally refer to as “the feral twins” (it was an au-pairs-raise-the-three-kids type family), but if I had to guess, I’d think that they were more scared of their kids than anything.

  12. “I haven’t actually seen this sort of thing in the wild.”
    Maybe I’m exposed to it more in NYC? I see it quite a lot. Over the summer, a friend and I were in an antiques store and a couple lifted their toddler onto an antique table and let him stomp across its surface in his shoes, then encouraged him to jump up and down on the Morris chairs. The poor store owner hovered and wrung his hands, afraid to lose potential customers but also worried about his stuff. My friend Ann (who has two kids of her own) leaned over to me and whispered “God’s precious gifts.” That’s what we call them now, the children whose parents think they’ve done the world a great favor by reproducing and that the entire universe is for their child’s pleasure. (I get that kids need to run and jump, but there was a playground 2 blocks away.)
    Most parents—including my friends and relatives who have kids—would not allow their children to do that. It’s only a very particular subset.

  13. “I wouldn’t even go near one of those with mine. The antiques might survive, but my nerves wouldn’t.”
    I’ve been into a couple of small-town Texas antique stores with the kids over the past year or so, but I would never, ever do so in NYC.

  14. That is horrifying, Suze. Maybe they’re practicing believing in their child’s divinity to get him psyched up for the preschool exams?
    I don’t see much of that kind of thing either, even though I live in hippie attachment-parenting mecca (Portland, Oregon).

  15. Hmmm. Maybe because of the number of older and wealthier parents in NY, there’s more of the entitlement mindset? Also, there are more places not particularly suited for young children, but where people take them nevertheless? ie, you readily accept some noise and maybe a meltdown at the next table at your local Chinese restaurant, but no so much at Le Bernardin.
    Anyway, being concerned that your kid might break something in an antiques shop automatically eliminates you from the category, as does bringing books, crayons, on a plane.🙂

  16. Suze, That type of parenting comes from parents who aren’t used to dealing with their kids and usually let a nanny deal with the kid. That’s rookie parenting. No parent who deals with a kid on a regular basis and is around other kids does that kind of thing.
    So, while I very much appreciate being exempted from your generalization about bad parents, I am a bit disturbed that you think this behavior is wide spread. The NYT does this hatchet job on parents all the time. Most parents don’t behave the way that you described, but the one bad apple takes a HUGE significance. I bet there were ten other well behaved kids on that plane and you never noticed them. Your brain only registered the annoying kid.
    For every bad kid story you have, I’ll match it with a cranky old person in the supermarket story or the mean teacher story or the cell-phone talking driver story or the insane politician story. My conclusion? All people are annoying.

  17. My conclusion? All people are annoying.
    Repeating my own comment from your “The Impact of Working Parents on Children” post:
    This childless doting aunt has never had problems with kids on airplanes — they don’t tend to a) recline their seat backs into my lap or b) stuff their carry-on into the overhead bin above my row, then stroll to their seat, 11 rows farther back.
    So, while I very much appreciate being exempted from your generalization about bad parents, I am a bit disturbed that you think this behavior is wide spread.
    Laura, I didn’t really take away from Suze’s comments that she perceives bad parenting as “widespread.”
    In fact, she said re: the parents letting their toddler run amok in the NYC antique store:
    Most parents—including my friends and relatives who have kids—would not allow their children to do that. It’s only a very particular subset.

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